Life jacket exchange events kick off Safe Boating Week May 18

Life jacket exchanges are planned May 18 at seven locations in Arizona, including two lakes close to Apache Junction — Canyon Lake and Saguaro Lake. (Arizona Game and Fish).

Safe Boating Week is on the horizon and the Arizona Game and Fish Department will kick off the national campaign locally with multiple life jacket exchange events at area lakes Saturday, May 18.

Now in its 11th year, the Life Jacket Exchange program allows people with an old, worn out life jacket to swap it for a new one (while supplies last). Last year, the department’s Boating Safety Education program exchanged 1,520 of the life-saving jackets, according to a release.

“Life jackets save lives, but only if they’re still in good operating condition,” Josh Hoffman, AZGFD’s boating safety education coordinator, said in the release. “Like anything else, life jackets wear out with time and these exchange events are an amazing opportunity for Arizona’s boaters and paddlers to ensure they have a life jacket that not only fits correctly, but is in great condition.”

The events run 10 a.m.-noon May 18 at seven locations throughout the state including the two lakes close to Apache Junction:

  • Canyon Lake at the main boat ramp.
  • Saguaro Lake at the main boat ramp (from 8 a.m. to noon).

Note that Type I and Type II life jackets will not be accepted, but other life jacket exchange events will be held at other times during the summer.

Before heading out on the water, it’s important that boaters check to ensure that their life jackets are in good condition and that they are the right size and fit for passengers. When inspecting life jackets, look for any rips or tears, missing straps, broken fasteners, and to ensure that the flotation hasn’t shifted. Life jackets should be inspected each boating season due to the environment’s impact on their materials, according to the release.

State law requires all passengers 12 and younger to wear a life jacket while on board and each passenger must have a properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket available.

May 18 is also the start of National Safe Boating Week, an effort to spread the message that wearing a life jacket is the simplest way to ensure an individual’s safety on the water.

Drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of every five recreational boating fatalities in 2017, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s most readily available statistics. In the 449 water-related deaths that year, 370 people — approximately 84.5% — were not wearing a life jacket. Those statistics are reflected in Arizona: There were 11 recreational boating fatalities in the state last year and the first fatality of 2019 involved a kayaker who was not wearing a life jacket. These deaths are preventable, the release states.

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